All you Need to Know about Actives in Skincare Products

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Walking through the skincare aisle of a drugstore can be extremely overwhelming. The shelves are filled with a gazillion beauty products that look fancy and make alluring promises. With every second brand claiming to make the skin look clearer, brighter and firmer, even the most seasoned beauty junkie can get bewildered. Do you relate to this?

We’ve been through this and know how difficult it can be choosing the right skincare products. However, here’s one rule of thumb that always works. Remember, skincare is all about “less is more”. Don’t go overboard.

Treat your skin like a baby. Never overfeed it. Understand what’s good for it and give it the nutrition it deserves. 

Once you start doing this, there’s no looking back. Your skin will cooperate with you. You may have umpteen products in your skincare regimens such as serum, toner, moisturiser and sunscreen. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but when you know what skin actives are present in a particular product, the way you care for your skin changes. 

What are Skincare Actives?

Skin actives is a recent buzzword that has taken the beauty world by storm. Everybody seems to be talking about it but no one really knows what these scientific ingredients do.

Fret not! We’re here to break this down for you. The next time you’re having a tête-à-tête with a product that promises to fix your skin, check if they have certain actives.

Actives refer to certain natural ingredients present in skincare products that “actively” target specific concerns such as pigmentation, ageing, acne, wrinkles and congestion. These science-backed ingredients are known to change the structure of the skin at a cellular level. 

Instead of simply investing in a product that claims to be good, look for skin actives that will actually bring about that noticeable change. When you give your skin the TLC (tender loving care) it deserves, you will be able to address a myriad of skin concerns. 

In a nutshell, a skin active is something that contains an active ingredient. Vitamin C, Niacinamide, BHA, AHA, Hyaluronic acid and retinoids are a few of the best actives for the skin

With so many different actives present today, how do you know which one is perfect for your skin type? Before even making an impulsive purchase, figure out which concern you want to target or fight. Once you’ve done that, learn about how each active ingredient can make a visible difference to your existing skincare routine.

6 Common Skincare Active Ingredients & What They Do?

When we buy a skincare product off the shelf, most of us don’t even read the label to understand what active ingredients are present in it. We simply pick it up because we believe it’s good for our skin. However, following such a practice can be problematic in the long run. It can do more harm than good. When you are buying a skincare product, check if it has at least one skin active. If it has two, it’s a bonus. Also, be prepared to find the same active in a drugstore, luxury and dermatologist-prescribed product. 

To find the right active for your skin, you don’t need to break the bank. Cost doesn’t determine superiority and efficacy. Even if it costs a mere 100 bucks, it can produce the intended results. 

Here are the common actives in skincare products, you’re likely to find:

1. Vitamin C

Just like a glass of orange juice would make you feel bright and refreshed, vitamin C in your serum, moisturiser or sunscreen can instantly brighten up your skin. It is a super-potent antioxidant that fights UV damage, and increases collagen and elastin production. Since vitamin C is a highly unstable molecule, it can even irritate the skin for some. Therefore, when looking for products with vitamin C, check if it contains ascorbic acid. It is a derivative of vitamin C. Look for a product that doesn’t contain water and is packaged in dark glass bottles or airtight pumps. 


  • Brightens complexion
  • Restores youthful suppleness
  • Ideal to achieve a uniform skin tone

We Recommend

Sublime Life Vitamin C Brightening Water 

2. Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic Acid is one skin active that boosts hydration. The naturally occurring sugar molecule is known to retain moisture within the skin. Therefore, if you’re someone who is suffering from dry, damaged and dull skin, a moisturiser with hyaluronic acid can be your saviour. However, it’s not just for those with a dry skin type. Even those with oily skin may be suffering from a hydration imbalance. Therefore, seek this active ingredient to restore your skin’s moisture levels. Besides hydration, it is also believed to be powerful for anti-aging. 


  • Boosts skin hydration
  • Gives a youthful, supple radiance
  • Fights early signs of anti-aging

We Recommend:

Minimalist Hyaluronic Acid 2% + Vitamin B5 serum

3. Retinol

If you’re looking for anti-aging actives, retinol has you covered. This active ingredient is also said to make your skin look smoother and firmer. Products that have retinol as their primary ingredient are suitable for all age groups. The miracle ingredient also treats acne-prone skin, age spots, fine lines, wrinkles and clogged pores. Most dermatologists believe that retinoids increase the skin cells and decrease the keratin debris which clumps together to clog-up pores. 


  • Smooth, firm skin
  • Prevents pre-mature ageing
  • Soothes sun-damaged and acne-prone skin

We Recommend:

The Derma Co. Retinol Serum for Spotless Skin

4. Niacinamide

If your existing skincare products have niacinamide, you’re sorted. It’s perhaps the only skin active that is extremely versatile. It does the work of two ingredients. While its primary function is to soothe inflammations, it is also known to minimise the appearance of pores and fine lines. Few weeks of regular use can bring back the radiance of your skin. It also treats acne, hyperpigmentation and rosacea-prone skin. If you’re new to skincare actives and don’t know where to start, niacinamide is your safe bet. It’s a super-calming ingredient.


  • Treats Acne and hyperpigmentation 
  • Balances oil production
  • Minimises the appearance of pores and fine lines

We Recommend:

Rejusure 5% Niacinamide Facial Serum

5. Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)

Exfoliation is an integral part of every skincare regimen. It is said to improve skin tone and texture. However, not all skin types can manage aggressive exfoliation. That’s where alpha-hydroxy acids come in. They are a class of water-soluble chemical exfoliants that eliminate dead skin build-up on the surface of the skin, resulting in an even complexion. It also treats irregular pigmentation, age spots and wrinkles. AHAs also prevent blackheads and whiteheads. You will usually find AHAs in toners, face masks, creams and cleansers. 


  • Tackles irregular pigmentation
  • Eliminates dead skin build-up
  • Smoothens skin without any scrubbing 

We Recommend:

AHA + BHA Hydro Peel Exfoliating Serum 

6. Ceramides

A healthy skin barrier is a secret behind healthy skin. If you want to preserve the protective barrier of your skin and prevent moisture loss, ceramides are the key skin active you should be looking for. It is a form of waterproofing that protects your skin from visible damage caused by pollution and toxins. Dermatologists also recommend it as an active for acne. The best way to incorporate this ingredient into your daily skincare regimen is by purchasing a ceramide-infused moisturiser.


  • Treats dry and damaged skin
  • Remedy for skin irritation
  • Retains skin moisture

We Recommend:

Re’equil Ceramide & Hyaluronic Acid Moisturiser 

Tips to Layer Active Ingredients in a Skincare Routine

In skin care, there’s a very fine line between productivity and product overload. If you’ve just learned about actives for skin, knowing how to incorporate them into your regimen is vital. Here are few tips most skincare junkies swear by:

  • Always apply active products right after cleansing. Applying any kind of skin active on a clean surface allows the product to penetrate easily. 
  • Always go from the thinnest to the thickest product. Start with water-based serums that have a thin consistency. This gives it enough time to sink into the skin and get to work. Finish off with an oil, serum or moisturiser that may be thicker. 
  • If you are having a hard time finding the right combination of active ingredients for your skin, contact a dermatologist. They will prescribe the right combo for you. If the wrong skin actives are used together, they can lead to skin irritation. 
  • Apply lower pH actives right after cleansing while higher ones can come later in the routine. The former includes ingredients such as AHA, vitamin C and BHA while the latter includes hyaluronic acid, vitamin A and retinoids. 
  • Morning skincare routines should focus on tackling sun-damaged skin while nighttime routines are ideal for regenerating cells and tightening the skin.
  • Lastly, when it comes to skin actives, know what composition and concentration of ingredients each product has. As we said earlier, every skin type is different and knowing what your skin needs is the first step of a successful routine. 

We hope we’ve broken down all your queries with regard to skincare actives. When these potent and powerful ingredients are incorporated into your existing routine, the benefits are fantastic. However, exercising caution is a must. Before purchasing any of the above-mentioned products, check your skin’s tolerance level. When in doubt, we’d recommend you contact a dermatologist near you. 


1. Why should I follow a skincare routine?

 Following a skincare routine that has all the ingredients that are needed by your skin to heal, rejuvenate and glow is extremely important. This is because just like any other organ of our body, skin too needs some amount of special care and attention. Following a daily skin care routine will help you fight with a myriad of skin problems. 

2. What are some of the best skin care products?

There are many products in the market that can do wonders for your skin. But, you need to first understand what your skin needs and what are the products that will help your skin rejuvenate and heal. Some of the essential ingredients that your skin needs are mentioned above. 

3. Shall I buy skin care products with active ingredients?

The answer is Yes. Active ingredients in a skincare product can directly target the issues and help you replenish your skin right from the cellular level. But before splurging on skincare products with active ingredients, examine your skin and notice the issue that needs to be addressed. 


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